The Piratebush Loop Trail is the entrance trail to all of the trails at Poor Mountain Natural Area Preserve. Starting from the parking lot, the well-constructed trail contours the hillside and heads to the west before arriving at an information kiosk. This is also the junction for the Overlook Trail
which heads off to the north. Be sure to wipe off your feet at the foot brush station at the kiosk to remove any exotic soils or seeds when entering and exiting the preserve. Continue past the information sign and to travel clockwise around the loop, take a left at the next junction. This will contour around the 2312' summit of Poor Mountain past several interpretive signs which identify the unique characteristics of the piratebush. Soon you'll reach a junction with the Cascade Trail
heading off to the west. Stay to the right and head uphill and eventually back to the east to return to the start of the loop and the information kiosk.
Poor Mountain Natural Area Preserve has the world's largest population of piratebush, a shrub that favors poor or acidic soils on dry wooded slopes. Piratebush is only found in Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Piratebush has light green or yellowish leaves which are a characteristic of its parasitic nature. Instead of needing to derive all of its energy with chlorophyll, its roots tap into other shrub and tree root systems.
The 925-acre Poor Mountain Natural Area Preserve was initially purchased and protected through a combination of The Nature Conservancy and public funding in 1992. Since then, the management of the area has transferred to Virginia's Department of Conservation & Recreation, and the beautifully constructed trails were built by Pathways for Greenways, an extension of Roanoke Valley Greenways
who construct many of the New River Valley's trails and are often looking for volunteers. To support The Nature Conservancy in Virginia, check out their website